|Anakena, the main beach on the Island. Quite pretty, there are actually only two small beaches on the island|
The traditional narrative is that the trees were all cut down to make statues. But even the latest dates for the removal of all the trees on the island (the 1600's is about as late as the guesses get) don't go all the way to the end of the statue making period. The biggest statues were actually made AFTER the trees were gone.
There is a recent paper that suggests that the trees were all killed by rats. Most all the archaeologists I've spoken to here don't buy it. I personally think that a combination of human usage and rat destruction probably accelerated the deforestation, but that only applies to certain palm species. If there were other kinds of trees then it pretty much has to be human agency that deforested the island.
I heard over dinner the other night that there is potentially some late date wood from a non-palm tree. The stuff is still being studied, but it could actually push the date for deforestation closer to the historic era and indicate other local species besides palms. The people I've talked to seem convinced that there were multiple species of trees on the island.
So what happened to the trees? The honest answer is that no one knows for sure, we don't know how many or what kind of trees there were. It's a mystery.
As an update on my work here, I am enjoying being in the lab. UNESCO and the Japanese government built a nice fully modern lab at the museum. I'm doing science and it's fun. I'm washing and analyzing lots of rocks. It's pretty fun for me, though maybe not everyone's cup of tea.
|I jokingly refer to this as my legally mandated photo op|
|I was just proud of this photo of Tongariki I took from Rano Raraku|